Alternatives to Happy Tails Travel: Identifying the Best Pet Shipping Service for Your Needs

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated January 16, 2024

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There are many circumstances that require transporting an animal, like breeders delivering a puppy to out-of-state clients or a family sending their cat to a distant new home. No matter the reason, it’s a stressful process; you love your animals like family and demand only the best for them. Whether you’re shipping dogs by air or need ground transportation for your cat, the animal’s comfort and your peace of mind largely hinge on the transportation service you choose.

While there are many pet shipping companies, it can be overwhelming to identify which are reputable and provide the best service. Happy Tails Travel, Inc. has been in the business for decades and has a strong track record. Air shipping is it’s bread-and-butter, and that might not be the right transportation method for your needs. Additionally, it doesn’t ship animals on weekends due to limited cargo space on airlines. It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of air travel versus ground transportation in order to identify what transportation method works best for your situation and schedule.

Air Travel Versus Ground Transportation

Pros of Ground Transportation

  • Usually less expensive than air transportation.
  • Doesn’t require as much advance preparation.
  • It’s typically safer than flying – although both are extremely safe.
  • The animal will be able to take potty and exercise breaks every four hours.
  • Any breed of dog can be shipped.
  • Door-to-door service is usually offered.

Cons of Ground Transportation

  • Takes longer to travel long distances.
  • It’s not an option for international shipping.
  • Can be hard to find overnight lodging for long-distance trips.

Pros of Air Transportation

  • Faster to transport a pet cross-country; you’ll be reunited with your pet sooner.
  • Smaller animals can travel in the cabin with an Air Nanny.
  • Many air transport companies arrange travel logistics for you.
  • Select air transportation services provide a “comfort stop” so the animal can eat and get exercise.

Cons of Air Transportation

How Much Will It Cost?

The cost of shipping dogs by air or ground transport varies greatly by distance. Local shipments are typically just a few hundred dollars, while long-distance travel can become very pricey, well over $1,000. Long-distance air travel may seem less expensive, but prepping the animal for travel and associated costs often makes it pricier than even luxury ground transportation.

Depending on what service you use to transport your pet, there are several additional costs to consider. The travel crate is an important expense when you’re shipping via airplane, as you’ll need to be sure the carrier meets airlines’ standards. They are very precise and the airlines won’t allow your pet onboard if it’s in the wrong carrier. The larger the dog, the more the crate will cost you.

Most ground transportation services provide their own crates, which is significant savings. You’ll also need to pay for vet visits for general vaccinations, blood tests, and health checks. Try to plan ahead and schedule multiple procedures in one visit to bring down costs.

That’s why innovative companies like CitizenShipper can save you money. On the company’s top-rated marketplace, drivers actually bid for your business. This drives down costs and allows you to pick from transporters that fit your budget. Post a free listing now and get bids within minutes!

5. Royal Paws


Georgia-based Royal Paws sets itself apart from the competition by offering exclusive, private ground transportation. The company uses two drivers to transport animals in specially-designed SUVs and minivans. Because your pet is traveling privately, you don’t need to worry about health certifications or vaccines. Royal Paws is certified by USDA APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) but isn’t a member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA).

Of course, this level of exclusivity comes at a price. If you need to transport your pet long-distance, Royal Paws can be cost-prohibitive. In order to get an estimate for your shipping job, you’ll have to request a quote and have a consultation. The company’s primary focus is shipping dogs, though they’re open to shipping other animals. Royal Paws isn’t a good choice for your animal shipping needs if you’re looking for a budget option.

4. Starwood Animal Transport


Starwood is a dog shipping service with 50 years of experience transporting pets internationally and domestically. When you opt for ground transport, your pet will be delivered in specially-designed RVs with a two-person driving team. If the trip takes several days, they offer boarding services through local kennels. Shipping dogs by air is another service Starwood offers.

The main drawback of using Starwood Animal Transport is that door-to-door service can be pricey if you’re not located near one of their 15 hubs. You’ll be charged a flat rate if you pick the pet up from one of its hubs, but it charges $3 a mile from the nearest hub to your door, which can add up quickly. While 50 years in the industry does provide some level of reliability, it should be noted that Starwood is not a BBB-accredited business.

3. Airpets International


Airpets International is another service with five decades of experience shipping dogs by air. Founded in the UK, it’s now expanded to offer international service. It’s the most direct competitor to Happy Tails Travel on our list because the business’s main focus is international air travel using an air nanny. Like Happy Tails, much of the logistics around transporting your pet will be handled by representatives of Airpets International. Airpets is an IPATA member and accredited by the USDA.

Airpets International is one of the priciest pet shipping companies. Domestic moves start at $1,000, while international moves can cost upwards of $2000. Like Happy Tails Travel, ground transportation is available but is not the best-known service for which the company is.

2. Animals Away


Animals Away have shipped and provided logistics services for over 50,000 pets since it was established in the ‘90s. As one of the older transportation services, it has an excellent track record, an A+ rating from the BBB, a membership with IPATA, and a USDA Handler’s License.

Animals Away is another company that’s mostly focused on air travel – though it does provide ground transportation in the Northeast region. If you have a pet that can’t be shipped by plane and you live in any other part of the country, it’s not the best choice.

1. CitizenShipper


What sets CitizenShipper apart from other businesses on the list is that it’s an online marketplace connecting people that have transport needs with drivers headed to their destination. With over 12 years of experience, it’s become the gold standard in terms of affordability and flexibility when you have a shipping need. The pet transporters on the site aren’t employees of the company; instead, they’re independent contractors that work with you on pricing, scheduling, and any other special requirements.

When you create a listing on CitizenShipper, transport professionals bid on the job in a reverse auction format. This drives down costs so you can choose a transporter that meets your budget and who you trust. The internal communication system allows you to speak directly with drivers so you can explain any special needs of your animal and get a feel for its personality. Customized profiles include reviews from previous customers, badges that indicate achievements as a CitizenShipper driver, and photos of themselves and their vehicle.

CitizenShipper is the only pet transportation service that offers a pet transportation protection plan for every shipment. Additionally, it provides customers with a booking assurance guarantee. That means you’ll benefit from a dedicated team that answers any questions you have, have refund protection against fraud, get help if a driver isn’t communicative or is late on a delivery, and receives one-on-one VIP rebooking assistance in the case of driver cancellation.

It’s free and very easy to post a listing for your pet shipping job on CitizenShipper. Simply click over to the company’s website and list a new shipment to find out how much you can save!

Summary of the 5 Top Alternatives to Happy Tails Travel

Choosing the right pet shipping service is crucial for your pet’s comfort and your peace of mind. Happy Tails Travel is a reputable company with decades of experience, but it may not suit everyone’s needs or schedules. In this comparison table, you’ll find the top five alternatives to Happy Tails Travel, each with their own unique features, pros, and cons. CitizenShipper stands out as the best alternative, providing an affordable and flexible marketplace to find the right transport provider for your pet. Compare these options and make an informed decision to ensure a smooth and safe journey for your beloved companion.

CitizenShipperOnline pet shipping marketplace, independent transport providers, pet protection planAffordable and flexible, multiple quotes, direct communication with drivers, Booking Assurance Guarantee, detailed driver profilesDomestic services only, not a transport company
Animals AwayAir travel, ground transportation in the NortheastOver 50,000 pets shipped, A+ BBB rating, IPATA member, USDA Handler’s LicenseLimited ground transportation service area
Airpets InternationalInternational air travel, air nanny50 years of experience, IPATA member, USDA accreditation, handles logisticsExpensive, focuses mainly on air travel
Starwood Animal TransportAir and ground transport, international and domestic services50 years of experience, specially-designed RVs for ground transport, boarding services through local kennelsNot BBB-accredited, additional charges for door-to-door service
Royal PawsPrivate, exclusive ground transportationPrivate pet transportation, USDA APHIS certified, customized serviceExpensive, not a member of IPATA, limited to dogs
Top 5 Happy Tails Travel Alternatives: Comparing Features, Pros, and Cons